Looking ahead to 2015: a preview of the new year in hardware

Looking ahead to 2015: a preview of the new year in hardware


 It is tradition on the internet to look back at the turn on all the events of the past year. The hardware world is of course much too fast to stand still while, so we prefer to look forward to what 2015 will bring.

 Obviously we have a look at the official and unofficial roadmaps from major manufacturers such as Intel, AMD and Nvidia, but we also pay attention to interfaces, technologies and innovations that next year probably will break. We pay the processors and video cards into real consumer as smartphones and TVs.


The great blue processor manufacturer has a roadmap for 2015 some interpretation can use. We were already accustomed to the high-end processor platform, currently consisting of socket 2011-3 and the X99 chipset, not always followed the mid-range CPUs, but Intel is the desktop segment further splitting. In the second quarter of 2015, the manufacturer will not only bring the unlocked Broadwell processors on the market, basically a die-shrink from 22 to 14 nm, but its successor: Skylake. Huh?

Looking ahead to 2015: a preview of the new year in hardware

In the original plan was all neatly mapped out according to the known tick-tock principle: first a ‘tick’ to the 14nm process with Broadwell, then a ‘tock’ to a new architecture with Skylake. Now runs it together: while the Z97 segment, to give it just a name, with the upgrade to Broadwell just with socket 1150 and the 9-series chipsets remains non-overclockable models are followed directly by Skylake. In addition, it includes a new socket, LGA1151, to be exact, and a 100-series chipsets. Part of the new socket is support for DDR4 memory.

For notebooks, the Broadwell architecture there for a while in the form of the M-Core processors. The higher positioned U-processors get early January an upgrade to Broadwell. The die-shrink means namely lower power consumption and for mobile devices that can obviously not come soon enough. The specifications of these models are already on the street for a while: they are all dual-cores with a TDP of 15 watts, which are varieties with higher CPU clock or just a faster GPU. The fastest integrated graphics chip, Iris 6100, has 48 execution units, eight more than the fastest Haswell GPU. Fine for devices with battery and HTPCs: there is hardware acceleration for decoding H.265 video in 4K.

Looking ahead to 2015: a preview of the new year in hardware

The successor of Bay Trail, the current code name of the CPUs in the ‘Atom segment, “Braswell hot and should also come out in the first half of 2015. Again, we are dealing with a die-shrink to 14 nm. Moreover, the graphics get a big upgrade: from four to sixteen shaders. The first devices with Braswell SoC already surfaced: the new Intel’s NUC.

  Unfortunately, the roadmap of AMD looks less rosy. New high-end processors for socket AM3 + for example, we will not be seeing a whole. A new x86 architecture, the successor of Bulldozer, will only start in late 2015 or early 2016. Is the head of the design division meanwhile Jim Keller, who was also responsible for the K8 architecture of the Athlon 64 and Apple’s first ARM SoCs developed. That bodes well.

2015 stands for AMD in the sign of ‘Project Skybridge’, where processors with ARM and x86 cores modules can be plugged together. Large customers can for example combine AMD’s own Puma + -cores with Cortex A57 cores from ARM and natural GCN cores for graphics. In the background is AMD also busy developing its own ARM core codenamed K12. It should be clear: the battle between AMD and Intel is set in 2015, mainly on the lower segment.

It is interesting that Intel in that segment is just an underdog. AMD has all design-wins of the current consoles and the upcoming Nintendo console would use AMD hardware. In tablets and smartphones is definitely at the Intel still barely managed to steal market share from the ARM architecture, which makes use of include Qualcomm. Both AMD and Intel fighting there actually a piece of the pie.

  In addition, of course, this year we will again see a new generation APU codenamed Carrizo. Using the Excavator x86 cores with Radeon shaders the latest GCN architecture. The low-power APU codenamed Carrizo-L are based on Puma + -cores. According to AMD are placed on the same surface at an unchanged production process 30% more transistors. Both processors can be placed on the same motherboard, AMD wants to remove a barrier for OEMs. The number of design wins of laptops with Kaveri-APU was not great because again – the number of readily available models can be counted on one hand. For AMD, it is especially important to ensure that there are actually laptops with AMD APU at the local electronics store, which recent generations barely worked.

 Virtually all Android-top models with an ARM processor now use a Qualcomm chip. That company will soon introduce finally his first high-end 64-bit processors, the Snapdragon 810 and 808. These are composed of four and two Cortex-A57 cores, combined with four-efficient Cortex-A53 cores. The 810 can decode both H.265 video encoding tool and also supports LPDDR4, which by then 4GB modules are available. Both processors are baked at TSMC, the same 20nm process as the Apple-A8 chip in the iPhone 6.

 Speaking of Apple: for its next-generation iPhone and a possible “iPad Pro” it works also on a new CPU. Apple A9 is produced according to the latest rumors on 14 nm at Samsung. The SoC in the Apple Watch would come from the factories of Samsung halfgeleidertak.

 Nvidia meanwhile continues to work on 64-bit Project Denver’ cores, which will decrease after a first meeting in a variant of the Tegra K1 in Erista- and Parker processors. Both chips combine the ARMv8 cores with graphic units based on the Maxwell-architecture. Parker is produced according to the 16nm FinFET-process from TSMC and have therefore probably until the second half of the year coming.


 The 20nm node took longer to materialize than wait the intention was therefore postponed its AMD’s new graphics cards, while Nvidia that whole process even skips and goes directly to the 16nm process. There is currently no real yet so new video cards, but both sides still have something up his sleeve.

 Nvidia has, after all, only high-end video cards with the second Maxwell architecture released. It goes without saying that there are also models based on lower positioned efficient architecture that will come. Of the GeForce GTX 960, which is not yet fully clear whether the used GPU is a trimmed GM204 chip or a new, smaller GM206, even though a release date: January 22 would ‘he should come out.

Looking ahead to 2015: a preview of the new year in hardware

 AMD also came a few months ago with a new GPU: Tonga, used in the Radeon R9 285. According to rumors, not all stream processors that chip activated, so there is still room for a “R9 285x” with the full 2,048 shaders . In September, the manufacturer denied however that there was such a model in the planning.

 AMD’s next-generation GPU’s special because it will be no longer fry chips at TSMC. Instead, it seems that AMD’s 20nm-process of GlobalFoundries will use. That chip baker was formerly part of AMD, but was repelled to generate cash. It now looks like we can expect the first cards from the ‘Caribbean Islands’ generation between March and July, but that is obviously not fixed yet.

 By that time, TSMC’s 16nm process, which Nvidia will use, are far from finished. The most optimistic rumors talking about the third quarter of this year, but in the worst case we have to wait until 2016. The codename of the chip in the GTX 980 – GM204 – reveals that there is still a large GPU exists, namely GM210. Given the good efficiency of Maxwell would cast them in the good old 28nm process should not be a problem, but likely that Nvidia new Titan or ‘GTX 980 Ti’ pass out of the closet pull when absolutely necessary – a new top model AMD.

 Nvidia GPU presented its roadmap on the GPU Technology Conference in March 2014.

 AMD CEO Rory Read, said in an interview with Deutsche Bank last year that 28 nm for a long time will remain the dominant process. It is clear in any case that die-shrinks not as obvious as it used to and it will increasingly go to the most efficient architectures.

 SSDs and hard drives

 2014 was the year of the SSD. Never sold so many drives as last year, with a growth rate of sixty percent compared to 2013, as figures from Futuresource Consulting. Samsung is the market leader and has partnered with Kingston 60% of the market. Furthermore, you give this year for the first massively prefer a copy with 256 GB or even more storage.

Looking ahead to 2015: a preview of the new year in hardware

 The record sales was obviously caused by the massive price cuts. It is now possible to purchase for less than 37 cents per GB solid-state drive, while the price in 2013 was still well above the 50 cents. Such low prices are possible because manufacturers are going to make the NAND on ever smaller production process programs, or the flash cells as stacking go to Samsung’s 3D V-NAND.

 In 2015 we will also see the latter technique of IMFT, the joint venture between Intel and Micron. Within a few years it would thus be possible to manufacture in accordance with Intel’s SSD with a capacity of 10 TB. A 1TB SSD is only 2 millimeters thick. Now 3D V-NAND is still baked on a 40nm process, which thus also flex in the prices further help down.

  Another shift that will begin in 2015, is the move from SATA to PCI Express. PCI Express is significantly higher throughput possible, but in the background is set thus yet another changing: the switch from AHCI to NVM Express. Although it is not mandatory for PCI-Express SSDs, it can provide large performance gains. AHCI which was developed with a traditional hard drive in mind, NVMe will work much more efficiently with SSDs. This is because the queue of jobs is much higher – 32 commands in AHCI queues of 65,536 to 65,536 commands in NVMe. SSDs are perfect for parallel tasks, so the control can be much more efficient. It is really about big differences – see for example the results of the Intel P3700 DC, the first NVMe SSD that we tested.

 For normal consumers NVMe will be accessible by the SandForce SF-3700 controller. Which has already been postponed endless times and the future, after the acquisition by Seagate even uncertain, but in the first quarter of 2015, the then finally there. At CES, from 6 until 9 January in Las Vegas, we hear no doubt about it.

 Other controller manufacturers such as Marvell, Samsung and OCZ also working on SSD controllers with support for PCI Express and NVMe. All of them keep it somewhere in 2015, but anyway we can expect a lot of beautiful things this year.

 Which also exist, of course. This quarter Seagate will lay the first 10TB hard drive in the shops, which Western Digital / HGST will naturally follow. Because of the simpler but less rapid technology used Seagate, without filling the drives with helium, the larger disks of that business are still much cheaper than the competition. Named “Archive HDDs Seagate warns there expressly for that hard drives are not suitable for use as a boot disk.

 Many innovations in performance anyway you do not expect mechanical hard drives. The roadmaps of the different manufacturers is mostly a steady increase in the storage capacity of the disks. The next few years are likely to remain hard drives with plenty of storage still much cheaper than SSDs, which all manufacturers of HDDs focus on it, as much storage for as little money as possible.

 TVs and Monitors

 Where in 2014 the year of OLED should have, is that afterwards still a bit disappointing. Okay, you can in the virtual store find a handful of OLED TVs, but starting at 2,300 euros. Instead, in 2014 became the year of the ‘curved’ TVs, curved TVs so. When someone has decided that TVs have to be bent, we do not know, but we ourselves are skeptical about the argument ‘your eye is curved. Moreover, you usually only TV and for those who do not sit in the middle, it delivers just weird image distortion. The most likely reason for the craze of curved TVs is the fact that it can – and want to see manufacturers like naturally. Hopefully they have now proven that and all top models in 2015, flat, or at least flexible with the ability to make him flat.

Looking ahead to 2015: a preview of the new year in hardware

 4K is broken. The higher resolution of course makes an even sharper picture possible, and in practice it is really a big step forward compared to HD. The viewing distance in most living rooms, however, means that you can not perceive the full detail of 4K video on a small television. It is therefore no wonder that most 4K TVs models of 55 inches or larger: large sizes extra sharpness is much better advantage.

 This year, these phenomena further develop and occupy a larger share of the market. Smart TV also gets a lot of attention: the use of faster processors, sometimes even Intel chips, it is much faster and thus works more user friendly. LG works naturally pressure on its webOS, but also companies other than TV manufacturers keep working on it. Google makes another attempt to bring Android to TVs with Android TV, in cooperation with other TP Vision (Philips), Sharp and Sony. The great success of the Chromecast has once again demonstrated that there is indeed a need to do more with your TV – but only if it’s done good.

  Finally, Microsoft and Apple. The Xbox One Microsoft tries already a bit to create a hub for the living room, but the real integration with traditional TV is only available in the US. Apple CEO Tim Cook meanwhile said two years ago that the great interest in ameliorating TVs, but there has so far not much came of it.


 Happened many years not much of interest in the world of monitors. In 2014, Nvidia’s G-Sync became available, a technology that for the first time in years, yet another revolution losketende in the market for PC screens. Especially now 4K gaming is working on a rise, making even high-end video cards much trouble to high, to get constant frame rates, synchronize the refresh rate ensures the monitor with the output of the video card make the game experience pieces is better. Capture video or test is not really, but in practice the gameplay looks much smoother out.

 The first G-Sync monitors had very limited settings and were required by the Nvidia ASIC includes a hefty price-premium. At CES next week we will see the first screens with Adaptive-Sync, originally coined by AMD as Free Sync and later included in the DisplayPort standard by VESA. All major manufacturers of scalers will integrate, so an additional cost hardly needs to be mentioned.

 Windows 10, where we later expanded to go, will again improve the scaling of desktop applications. Now it is a fact that Microsoft has less control on the scaling of non-Apple programs with its OS X, but with 4K, 120 + Hz displays and Adaptive-Sync can for many PC gamers a reason to finally a go to purchase new monitor.


 When talking about an interface that will come back in 2015 to almost all kinds of products, it is the new USB 3.1 connector. The ‘C’ type connector we saw at IDF 2014 for the first time with their own eyes and solves almost all problems of traditional USB connectors. First, it replaces all the ports so far: micro USB, mini-USB and the ordinary full-size USB. The plug is small, on both sides of the same cable and has no top and bottom: you can put it in both ways stabbing into the terminal.

 Incidentally, it is possible, but not need to send USB 3.1 signal through this cable. Older USB signals and example DisplayPort can through it. USB 3.1 itself offers a theoretical throughput of 10 gigabits per second, which thanks to the other signal encoding even relatively large number of remains. Therefore, USB 3.1 is more than twice as fast as USB 3.0. ASMedia has a chip shown that 835 MB / s was achieved, by writing to SSDs.

 One of the first devices with the ‘C’-type connector will be the Nokia N1-tablet. It is obvious that soon motherboards will follow and also the new generation of smartphones connector could use. The connector is suitable to supply power to 100 watts, giving you hassle could feed with a laptop or a computer screen.

 What about those other fast storage standard, Thunderbolt? According to the latest plan will Intel Thunderbolt 3.0, that sometime this year introduced must do double the maximum speed to 40 Gbit / s and use a thinner connector. In the PC world Thunderbolt is totally excited and again another connector that will certainly not help. Thunderbolt actually makes one more advantage over over USB 3.1: the throughput is four times as high. That varies makes you a 4K monitor through Thunderbolt indeed 60Hz can control while you are limited with USB 3.1 to 30 Hz. We have strong doubts whether that standard does survive.

Also HDMI 2.0, we can not forget. This standard will be applied to almost all new TVs and is currently only supported by the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 and GTX 980. The key to the new HDMI version is the higher bandwidth, allowing 4K signal at 60 Hz can be sent . In addition, the color space is increased.

Smart Watches and VR

At CES 2014, the Pebble Steel was introduced: one of the smart watches that when most looked out for. It was a simple device with the main objective view of notifications and of course the time. There was a rectangular e-ink screen, causing the battery five days went along, while competing wearables actually had every night on the charger.

Looking ahead to 2015: a preview of the new year in hardware

Last year Google introduced Android Wear, a general operating system for different brands smart watches. Including LG, Samsung and ASUS brought smart watches with that OS, but Motorola threw this year undoubtedly the highest eyes. The Moto 360 had a round screen, microphones, a light sensor and could be loaded wirelessly via Qi.

This new trend was deployed: smart watches were actually smart. You could use voice commands to complete or send messages actions – WhatsApp added support. The Lollipop update for Android Wear Google brings the ‘Material Design’ to the watches and introduced an API for its own watch-faces. The screen brightness can be controlled smarter.

The Moto 360 was one of the first smart watches with a round screen.

Microsoft released in October the band from a smart watch that mainly focused on sports. Apple released a month earlier with Apple Watch, although that only sometime in the next few months in stores. The company picks go big with two screen sizes and model also three versions with a slightly different design. Although the screen is made of sapphire, there is simply chose a square screen.

Looking ahead to 2015: a preview of the new year in hardware

The smart watch will develop in 2015 to a mature product, which undoubtedly increasing use cases are found: the first smartphone was not nearly as useful as a model from the present. There is certainly no shortage of companies that are doing.

Virtual reality

2015 must be the year in which the virtual reality glasses, the Oculus Rift, finally in stores. Compared to the second Developer Kit, which last year including in First Look could be tried, the headset is improved and the resolution of the screens used goes up again – much needed because so close to your eye are easy to count the pixels.

Sony has at fairs already shown its Project Morpheus glasses, a VR goggles for the PlayStation 4. For example, the Sony E3 this year will probably show a further developed version or release a VR goggles. The latter, Microsoft is going to do: according to rumors, a team developed by Microsoft’s hardware specs for VR gaming introduced in June.

More details are not yet, but for virtual reality is an important year 2015 anyway.

Steam OS and Windows 10

In the spring of 2014, we concluded that Steam OS for a revolution in the way we play games can provide, but for a lot of games to come out for Linux. If there are enough triple-A titles playable on a “Steam Machine”, there is certainly a new competitor for consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation – or perhaps even a replacement. Despite the great potential, it remained until now relatively quiet around Steam OS. The Alienware Alpha was originally intended as Steam Machine, but is now just released with Windows 8.1.

Looking ahead to 2015: a preview of the new year in hardware

Although originally in 2014 were to happen, we have not seen a final version of Steam OS. We know for example, that Valve is busy designing a dedicated controller to the operating system, but the latest release window is still not concrete than “sometime in 2015”. One major title is certainly within: Metro Redux, where both 2033 Last Light belong, since last month available for Linux.

Windows 10

With its especially on touch devices oriented interface Windows 8 was ahead of his time, at least, although the operating system sold really bad, it was not the boost which the baggy PC industry so waiting for. With Windows 10, Microsoft explains his philosophy different: not the same interface on any device, on any device but the best interface.

In October, Microsoft released the first “Technical Preview” of its new OS out, which was updated a few times. In the last month of 2014 was leaking again a brand new build out, so we got a better look at the development kitchen of Windows 10.

Although the most discussed feature will undoubtedly be the new start menu, Microsoft has added enough features that are really new. People who use Windows primarily for productive use, will be pleased with the ability to use different virtual desktops, while users of a touch device with Continuum a much better integration of the Metro and the traditional desktop interface will experience. Gamers will just have a lot of the new DirectX 12 API.

Of course we must not forget to mention the voice assistant Cortana as major new feature in the next version of Windows, but you can turned on or off. That is a common thread throughout the operating system – virtually all the new features, you can also turn off, if they are not to your liking. Rather the start screen instead of the start menu? No problem. For the average consumer is that perhaps the most important change: Microsoft releases the OS back to the user, without needing to use third-party tools need.

For the success of Windows 10, which will probably appear somewhere in the autumn of 2015, also plays a role that Microsoft public opinion still has it. It seems to be tradition to put down a new OS as it introduces major changes, and some not so great on the eye changes are enough again to create a well-received operating system. What we can not use anyway, is an old OS where everyone hangs on a la Windows XP – if only for all the security risks that are involved. That seems the software giant with Windows 10 in any case out of the way.


All in all, 2015 has all the makings to be a spectacular year for the hardware industry. Of course gives a new major release of Windows, the market is always a push, but the low-level DirectX 12 API makes the launch of Windows 10 for gamers interesting.

At the same time, we see new concepts enter the market, such as virtual reality and modular phones. In return, new products and technologies from 2014, such as smart watches and monitors with a variable frame rate in 2015 will be mature and perhaps will unleash a new revolution in their market segments.

Also for the real hardware enthusiast there enough in the pipeline: 4K will truly break through and USB 3.1 as a new interface brings numerous benefits. Although the CPU market is less interesting, AMD and Nvidia still matched and 2015 is the year that finally parting will be taken from the already three year rotating 28nm process.

Looking ahead to 2015: a preview of the new year in hardware updated: January 2, 2015 author: John Malkovich